I have recently been working with Holland and Barrett to promote their new FreeFrom range. I wrote this article for their Free From Foods information pages to explain a little more about what it’s like to deal with multiple allergies.
MANAGING MULTIPLE ALLERGIES
Wandering around farmers’ markets, tasting all the free samples and picking up a new cheese or pastry to enjoy was always one of my favourite activities. Eating out with family or friends was a relaxing experience I looked forward to and I loved going to a picnic or BBQ to share dishes and discover new foods.
But in the last two years my relationship to food has changed. My young son has severe food allergies so I have had to look at everything we eat in a totally new light.
WHERE OUR STORY BEGAN
Before my son born I would worry about things tasting good and being nutritious. I wondered how I would raise a non-picky eater and make sure he got his five a day. I still think about all of those things but more importantly, I worry whether what he is eating is safe.
It was a long journey to get a proper diagnosis for all his allergies. He was a miserable baby. He cried, he fussed, he didn’t sleep and generally seemed uncomfortable most of the time. At 10 weeks old he developed severe eczema and started losing weight. We were referred to a dermatologist and given strong steroid creams which helped but not one of the consultants suggested it could be allergy related.
It wasn’t until we started weaning my son that we discovered the true extent of his reactions. He would come out in an instant, itchy rash after eating any dairy and a small taste of hummus made him sick and swollen. After a referral to Addenbrookes Allergy Clinic he was finally given tests and we found out he was allergic to dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, cod and garlic. Once we removed these foods from his diet his eczema cleared up and he was a much happier and healthier child.
When he was 15 months old we went away for the weekend to Norfolk with a group of other families. We had a lovely time playing on the beach and watching the children run around the garden. But on the last day my husband rushed my son upstairs as he was suddenly struggling to breathe. He had taken a sip from another child’s bottle of milk and his body was having an anaphylactic reaction. Luckily, we had been prescribed an adrenaline injector and as soon as we injected it into his thigh, his airways began to open. When the ambulance arrived, thankfully he was starting to recover but it was shocking to see what a small amount of a common food can do to a child with allergies.
The experience itself was very scary but the aftermath is even more terrifying. The thought that it could happen again and the daily task of making sure it doesn’t can become all-consuming. That’s why I started my blog www.freefromfarmhouse.co.uk as a way to process my emotions, reach out to other people that are dealing with the same problems and hopefully offer some advice and ideas.
OUR FREE-FROM DISCOVERY JOURNEY
My son is only 2 so doesn’t understand his allergies yet or why he can’t eat all the food everyone else does. I don’t want him to miss out so I am always looking for great pre-made alternatives or ingredients I can use to make dishes at home.
It has been a big learning curve to find new things that still taste delicious but that are safe for him and enjoyable for all of us. To be honest, I have been amazed what I have found. If you had said vegan baking to me a few years ago I would probably have turned my nose up but most the recipes are just as delicious as things containing milk or egg and you wouldn’t know the difference. There are some great companies specialising in free-from food and the market is growing rapidly.
We have found some of our favourite brands in Holland and Barrett, such as Wow Butter – a nut free peanut butter which tastes just like the real thing, so I am delighted to see them expanding their range.
For my son, eating free-from food is not a lifestyle choice but a scary and medically necessary restriction that he is forced to deal with.
The more food options there are available for him the easier it will be for him to feel normal, share the joys of food with friends and family and stay safe. I will also have fun finding great new foods he can enjoy!